Steve Dollard, now 57, began having seizures in early childhood. After he was diagnosed with generalized epilepsy, the Manorville resident visited multiple neurologists in an attempt to find the right combination of anti-epileptic medications to control his seizures and not cause side effects.
For many years, Steve took Depakote to control his seizures. Even with the most effective medication that he’d found, Steve was still having around 20 seizures each day—many of which lasted a second or two. “I could be having a conservation with someone, have a seizure and the person wouldn’t even realize it,” said Steve. However, losing consciousness for even a brief time was a big risk for Steve who worked as a carpenter on skyscrapers.
What’s more, Steve worried about the high dose of Depakote he had to take each day: 1500 mg in the morning and another 1500 mg in the evening. “I wanted to try something new,” Steve explained. “Depakote had been around for years. Surely, there had to be a better, safer medicine that’s been developed to control my seizures at a lower dose.”
Steve’s search for a newer, safer anti-epileptic medicine led him on a journey that eventually brought him to see Dr. David Anschel, Director of Clinical Neurophysiology & Epilepsy at Catholic Health's St. Charles Hospital. Dr. Anschel, who first saw Steve during two hospitalizations in October 2020, confirmed the diagnosis of medication refractory idiopathic generalized epilepsy.
Steve was treated at St. Charles Epilepsy in Port Jefferson, NY, a National Association of Epilepsy (NAEC) level 3 epilepsy center and an affiliate of the level 4 accredited New York University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.
Steve then saw Dr. Anschel twice in the summer of 2022 when he was hospitalized again. “Each time I saw Steve at St. Charles, we thought we had achieved a good result,” said Dr. Anschel. “Steve seemed fine in the hospital with his seizures controlled, but he had to come back and then we were able to make changes that he needed to become seizure-free.”
Medications are the most commonly used treatment for epilepsy. There are about 20 anti-epileptic medications on the market today. “With all of these medications and potentially so many different combinations of medications, with a pure trial-and-error approach, you couldn’t go through every combination with an adequate trial in one person’s lifetime,” Dr. Anschel explained.
Given this, Dr. Anschel used his experience and knowledge with Steve’s specific type of epilepsy to make an educated guess as to which medications would work best for him. Even with his experience and knowledge, finding the right combination of anti-epileptic medication for each patient isn’t an overnight process.
“They have different mechanisms of action and different side effects,” said Dr. Anschel “It always takes a little bit of trial and error to get to the combination that works best for each patient—reducing or eliminating seizures with the least negative side effects.”
Today, Steve is retired from carpentry and is thrilled to be seizure-free, thanks to the anti-epileptic combination that Dr. Anschel determined worked best for him.
“Everyone there at St. Charles is awesome,” said Steve. “Everyone who worked on me was really great.”
Find Care at Catholic Health
Our team of specialists at St. Charles Epilepsy have the expertise and technology to provide the most advanced neurological testing, diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy and other seizure disorders.
“Don’t accept ongoing seizures or side effects from medications,” said Dr. Anschel. “In the vast majority of patients, we can achieve seizure freedom without unacceptable side effects. But it’s an involved process and takes dedication on the patient’s part as well.”
Talk to your physician about a referral to St. Charles Epilepsy. Call 631-474-6279 to schedule an appointment.
Learn more about epilepsy services at Catholic Health.
Call (866) MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.